DUNSANY, Ireland – Europe may have lost another Solheim Cup on Friday with its inability to seal the deal.
Sure, captain Alison Nicholas was pleased that her team has a 4 1/2 to 3 1/2 advantage after the opening day. Leading, after all, is better than trailing. But Europe easily could have had a crushing 7-1 lead going into Saturday.
On a chilly opening day, Europe showed plenty of fight, but no ability to finish. Leaderboards that were blue most of the day often turned to red by the end of each session.
The Europeans chose to focus on the positive.
“Our goal is to win every day,” said Suzann Pettersen, who won both of her matches for Europe but will sit out the Saturday morning foursomes. “We won today.”
Said Nicholas: “They fought hard and with passion. You can’t change anything.”
A team that expects to win can’t do the things Europe did. There were shanks, skulls, chunks and flubs at the most inopportune times, sometimes twice on the same hole. If you followed the LPGA for a year you wouldn’t see the errors that were made by Europe over the 36-hole marathon day.
The morning foursomes ended 2-2, but were 3-1 in Europe’s favor for most of the session. Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome were 2 down after 14 holes, then won three of the last four holes to defeat Melissa Reid and Karen Stupples, who chunked a chip shot on the 18th hole, handing the Americans the full point.
“I’m gutted that I didn’t pull that shot off when I needed to,” Stupples said.
The afternoon was more of the same. Europe easily won Match 3 in the afternoon when Sophie Gustafson and Caroline Hedwall thumped Lincicome and Vicky Hurst, 5 and 4. Shortly after that match ended Europe had the lead in all three other matches, foreshadowing a possible fourball sweep.
Momentum turned quickly when Christina Kim made an 18-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole in her match with the much-criticized Ryann O’Toole against Catriona Matthew and Sandra Gal. Moments later Creamer made a 12-footer for birdie to get back to level with Morgan Pressel against Laura Davies and Melissa Reid.
Pressel then made the putt of the day on 18, a 25-footer for birdie, allowing the Americans to steal the match for the full point. Shortly thereafter Kim and O’Toole salvaged a halve.
“Knowing all these Americans, they’re always managing to turn it around and sneak in a point here and there,” Pettersen said.
That’s because the Europeans often let them.
The Europeans are already frustrated by the perceptions created by American wins in the past three Solheim Cups. Those perceptions affect not only them, but the competition itself. If Europe loses again this week and comes to Colorado Golf Club for the 2013 matches without having won in a decade, how much interest will there be?
The frustration is evident in the faces of the Europeans. They're tired of all the questions regarding their apparent lack of competitive fire. They’re insulted that some don’t feel they're worthy of being in this competition, and they’re sick of hearing that Asia should become part of this 21-year tradition.
U.S. captain Rosie Jones is understandably concerned only with her own team. “I can’t give these girls enough credit for digging it out when they really needed to,” she said. “With a lot of heart my team came back.”
With a whole lot of help, too.